Category Archives: General Aviation

GAMA Air Safety Investigator Workshop

By: Earl Weener

I’m headed to Wichita, Kansas, this week to speak at GAMA’s annual General Aviation Air Safety Investigator Workshop, on September 26. At this event, I’m looking forward to addressing a broad representation of the air safety investigator community, including both government and industry safety professionals from the U.S. and around the world. The training affords investigators an opportunity to improve skills in identifying and mitigating safety hazards.

As part of the NTSB’s continuing efforts to improve GA safety, I have been highlighting good safety practices and pointing out where improvements can be made. I’m especially excited about addressing this particular audience as it provides an opportunity for discussing specific measures needed to reduce the GA accident rate, as well as gain a better understanding of what types of safety issues stand out in the world of corporate, business, and personal flying operations. The recent GA Safety Forum held by the NTSB in June of this year, initiated this dialogue and Wednesday’s workshop allows me to continue that discussion.

The workshop will also offer safety investigators an opportunity to hone their skills by replicating “real world” situations and allowing them to actively participate in simulated investigations, ensuring these professionals are up to date on current trends and best practices.

Notably, this event enables me to reach out to air safety investigators, a group uniquely poised to make contributions to the GA safety effort. Bottom line: improvements in GA safety are not going to come from just one aspect of the GA community; it will take the focus and attention of the entire community.


Earl F. Weener, Ph.D., took the oath of office as a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board on June 30, 2010.

Member Weener is a licensed pilot who has dedicated his entire career to the field of aviation safety.

Improving Safety Across all Modes of Transportation

By Debbie Hersman
Today, I had the honor of speaking to the Aero Club of Washington, an audience of professionals from across civil aviation. It’s a great organization whose members have done much to improve aviation safety. I recognized them for the aviation community’s hard work, which has resulted in a very impressive safety record — no fatal air carrier accidents since 2009.

But, I pointed out to the Aero Club members that with some 34,000 annual fatalities across all modes of transportation, there’s a lot the NTSB does outside of aviation. Readers of this blog well know that in addition to aviation accidents, the NTSB investigates railroad, highway, marine and pipeline accidents.

The good news is that, while not as dramatic as the safety record of the U.S. airlines, there have been significant safety improvements in other transportation modes. I told the Aero Club about the following positive changes that have all come in the wake of terrible tragedies:

• The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority committed to implementing all of our safety recommendations following a deadly two-train collision in 2009.

• The surface transportation reauthorization legislation — known as MAP-21 — addressed another NTSB recommendation about transit safety and gives the Federal Transit Administration crucial safety oversight authority to set national transit standards.

• The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees bus and truck safety, has taken an aggressive stand on bus safety, such as its recent one-day shutdown of 26 bus operations and has also implemented tough new rules prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using handheld cell phones.

• NHTSA is addressing improved bus occupant protection and manufacturers are now voluntarily including seatbelts as standard equipment on new buses.

Yes, the NTSB covers all modes. Our goal: improved safety. But, more to the point: it’s about saving lives. You can read the full speech here.

Changes to Air Racing at Reno

By Debbie Hersman

Nearly a year after a highly modified P-51D airplane crashed into the crowd at the Reno Air Races, killing 10 spectators and the pilot, planes are once again in the air at the Reno Air Show. But the event has undergone an overhaul that follows the Board’s safety recommendations. Gone are the fuel trucks that were previously stationed near the spectators, safety barriers have been placed in front of the pit areas and grandstand, which has been moved farther away from the speeding aircraft. The planes in the Unlimited Division have to undergo more extensive inspection and are reporting any modifications.

And NTSB investigators are on the ground, explaining the Safety Board’s investigation of the Galloping Ghost crash to pilots, participants and organizers. Three weeks ago, the NTSB determined the probable cause of the accident was deteriorated locknut inserts that allowed trim tab attachment screws to become loose, which ultimately led to aerodynamic flutter at racing speeds — a critical situation.

In April, we issued 10 recommendations — all of which have been completed or are in the process of being implemented.

Air racing is inherently risky. The pilots understand and assume that risk. Spectators, though, expect and deserve a higher level of safety.

Kentucky Aviation Conference

By: Earl Weener

On September 6, I’m looking forward to speaking at the 36th Annual Kentucky Aviation Conference, sponsored by both the Kentucky Aviation Association and the Kentucky Department of Aviation. This conference, attended by Kentucky airport officials, provides another opportunity to touch on General Aviation issues, a favorite topic of mine. Kentucky GA airports, in combination with three larger commercial airports, are a critical resource for the state’s economy. Commercial and general aviation operations move 21 million passengers and over 4.5 billion pounds of freight through Kentucky airports each year. That’s why it’s so important GA remains a viable option for states with limited commercial operations. And a viable option means a safe option.

In terms of aviation safety, more broadly, GA will increasingly play a significant role in pilot development. With the scaling back of military aviation training and operations, GA has become the primary source of professional pilot development – and the stock is running low. Safe GA operations, accessibility to GA airports, and quality flight instruction are in demand. Bottom line: today’s global economy requires pilots – and local GA operations and airports are critical to the global supply chain.


Earl F. Weener, Ph.D., took the oath of office as a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board on June 30, 2010.

Member Weener is a licensed pilot who has dedicated his entire career to the field of aviation safety.

Improving Skills Through Training

By Earl Weener

On August 22, I am looking forward to NBAA’s Safety Committee’s Business Aviation Pilot Training Symposium, a one day event focussed on improving pilot training for the business aviation sector. The discussion will include ideas on how business-aviation pilot training substantially benefits from adapting training philosophies from other segments of the industry, such as the Advanced Qualification Program.

The symposium will highlight efforts already completed by NBAA’s Safety Committee, and include planning tools and guidelines to assist the business aviation community in advancing their own training programs.

I will contribute to the event with a discussion on general aviation safety, focussing on several of the all-too-typical fatal business flying accidents. Each year, hundreds of people are killed in general aviation, and thousands more are injured. However, these statistics do not need to remain static, as the causes of these accidents are often repeated scenarios of previous accidents and can be addressed through training.

I hope you are able to join me at this free event hosted at the NTSB Conference Center. Bottom line: every pilot can improve his or her skills through training.